Volunteer burnout can be avoided with the right process in place to avoid it.

It is not uncommon for nonprofit volunteers and employees to encounter burnout in some way or another.  Nonprofit organizations can have tight budgets that may require employees to work long hours and put extra stress on volunteers to fill opportunity hours.  A recent study found that 26% of employees in the United States reported burnout. Burnout can affect a nonprofit employee or volunteer in a variety of ways including increased illness, anxiety, loneliness, loss of appetite, and depression.  Creating an organizational process for combating burnout can make your nonprofit staff and volunteers more efficient and increase their probability of hitting goals and driving your mission forward.  There are several strategies that nonprofits can use to combat employee and volunteer burnout.  Here are just a few.

Avoiding Volunteer Burnout Tip #1: Create a Transparent Recruiting Process

One way to prevent the risk of employee and volunteer burnout is to be transparent about the job or volunteer opportunity when identifying prospects.  Creating transparency during the recruiting process can create trust with potential candidates as well as provide them with what duties the opportunity will entail.  This process allows organizational visibility and gives prospects the option of understanding the role in depth before they commit to it.  Providing a detailed job description also helps to weed out employees and volunteers who are not fully committed to your organization’s mission or the potential role with your nonprofit.

Did you know? 14% of job seekers began searching because they didn’t like their previous employer’s culture.  

Avoiding Volunteer Burnout Tip #2: Create a Strong Process for Communication

Communicating effectively with your employees and volunteers is one of the single most important things your organization can do to avoid burnout and keep them on track.  Effective communication creates a bridge between your organization and your staff.  Keep in mind that communication should be a two-way street and allow your employees and volunteers to identify any issues that could have an effect on their performance and be the cause of burnout.  Here are just a few ways to promote effective communication:

  • Make it a priority to listen to your volunteers and employees
  • Create an environment that promotes openness so issues can be addressed quickly
  • Pay close attention to nonverbal cues
  • Use multiple communication channels to make the process of communicating more comfortable for more people
  • Be clear and precise when communicating with volunteers and employees

Did you know?  Over 50% of communication is delivered via non-verbal cues.  

Avoiding Volunteer Burnout Tip #3: Incorporate Rewards and Recognition

Providing your volunteers and staff with rewards and recognition is a great way to promote engagement and keep them on track.  Rewards and recognition do not need to cost a lot.  Honestly, most employees and volunteers are OK with just being acknowledged frequently for their efforts towards the mission of the nonprofit.  If your organization wants to take rewards to the next level consider a points system.  A points system can make the workload fun for volunteers and staff.  Volunteers and staff can earn points depending on predetermined goals and use those points to redeem prizes.  Check out our article on adding gamification to your volunteer recognition program.

Here are a few more ways to recognize your volunteers to avoid burnout:

  • Provide volunteers and staff with printed certificates of achievement
  • Write handwritten letters thanking your volunteers and staff
  • Communicate your praise to volunteers and staff
  • Create events to recognize your top performing volunteers and employees
  • Acknowledge special events in your staff and volunteer’s life (birthdays, work anniversaries, achievements)
  • Ask your volunteers and staff how they would like to be recognized in the future

Avoiding Volunteer Burnout Tip #4: Encourage Employees and Volunteers to Take Time Off

Not taking enough time off can easily cause volunteers and staff to be burned out.  It is important that all employees and volunteers focus on their mental health.  Encourage your nonprofit staff to use their vacation time to refresh and unwind every once in a while.  Your nonprofit should also create some guidelines on how often a volunteer can sign up for opportunities during a specific time period.  Not having a process and allowing volunteers to overcommit can easily lead to “no-shows” or a less productive volunteer force.

Did you know? 2 in 5 workers do not use all their paid vacation time.

Avoiding Volunteer Burnout Tip #5: Develop an Employee and Volunteer Wellness Program

Employee and volunteer wellness should be on the top of your nonprofits list if you want to effectively battle burnout.  If your organization wants to create an efficient and productive staff promote both mental and physical health.  One great way to do this is by rewarding volunteers and staff who participate in your organization’s wellness program.  Challenge your staff to achieve wellness goals.  Creating a strategic employee wellness program can also have major effects on your employee benefit costs.  Here are a few additional ideas for creating an effective wellness program for your nonprofit:

  • Offer volunteers and staff healthy snacks on-site
  • Create employee and volunteer assistance programs
  • Be flexible with your employee and volunteer work schedules
  • Offer your employees and volunteers health and wellness workshops
  • Provide employees and volunteers with wellness incentives
  • Create anti-stress zones in the office where people can sit and regroup

Final Thoughts

Employee and volunteer burnout can have negative effects on your nonprofits ability to carry out its mission and achieve goals.  Nonprofits should focus some effort on combating burnout by communicating effectively, engaging with volunteers and staff, encouraging employees and volunteers to take time off, and promoting a healthy lifestyle.  How is your nonprofit battling burnout? Comment below.